When our country was beginning to be settled, all of our iron was shipped over from England---a very expensive proposition. So, necessity being the mother of invention, hollow tree trunks became piping. I wonder how well that worked? And for how long?
But soon enough we began mining and smelting our own iron and thus began the modern age of plumbing in America. Up until about the time of the Civil War bathing was accomplished with either wooden tubs or a little fancier with long metal tubs often made of copper. Along came JL Mott in 1873 with one of the first cast-iron porcelain bathtubs manufactured in the US. It was patterned after the French style of tub---a bit different from the roll-top clawfoots provided by both Kohler and Wolff a few years later. The price was about $40.00---a goodly sum in those days, but how easy bathing became! Spare rooms began to be turned into new-fangled bathrooms---some very fancy indeed!
Mott bathtubs were even installed in the White House--and there is an interesting story attached to this. President William Howard Taft has been acknowledged to have been our most heavy president--- his weight sometimes climbing to 350 lbs during times of stress. One evening, after a long day, he climbed into the tub for a good soak---and got stuck. Finally extricated, he immediately put in an order for an enormous bathtub for himself. Mott went right to work and soon a big beautiful tub was delivered. It was so large that four White House staffers comfortably sat inside it to have their picture taken.
Mott's first tub
Kolher's history into bathtub manufacturing also included an interesting note. Their first tub was actually advertised as a horse trough/ hog scalder . Mr Kohler took a liking to it's design and decided to see if he could turn it into a porcelain bathtub. First he heated the tub to 930 degrees C. and then sprinkled in some enamel powder---it worked!
For those people who didn't or couldn't have a built-in bathroom, EJ Knowlton came up with a clever collasible bathtub which could be easily stored and moved--and was good for washing the whole body or only parts. It was made of heavy rubber attached to a strong frame which if placed between two chairs---one on each end--became an admirable bathtub. Have a look at the ad for this bathtub---what a good idea!
And so it went ... The road to modern conveniences was never smooth. There is a story in our family that Grandpa didn't want one of those nasty things in his house! He was refering to the indoor toilet. I guess he couldn't quite understand how the plumbing would work, having always had an outhouse. Grandma, on the other hand, was quite keen to have inside plumbing. She made her move when Grandpa had to go into town for few days and when he returned it was all set up. Bravo for Grandma! I've always wondered if Grandpa ever became friends with the new toilet---or just carried on as always with the outhouse.